where i have been

where i have been | the merry gourmet

I’ve been missing from this space for so long now that when I sit down to write, it feels foreign and almost uncomfortable. It feels like I don’t know it any more, this blog that once felt like my best friend. Now, she’s like that friend from college who, as it turns out, I really don’t have much in common with these days, but I know that once, long ago, we had lots of great times together and shared all of our secrets. The conversation is now slow to start and we can’t get past the awkward silences and talking about the weather. I really want to hang out with her again, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to confide in her as openly and trustingly as I used to.

I’ve intended to write so many things over so many of these past two years, but I freaked myself out a bit. I began to think about those of you who may still be reading here (when there is something to read). I know many of you may be strangers, some of you are old friends from food blogging and social media, some of you may be friends or colleagues from my real life (as opposed to this online one), a handful of you are family or friends of the family, and a small number of you (or maybe more?) may be patients or friends of patients. I questioned whether it was good for me to be so honest and open and raw. I began to wonder whether what I share here could hurt me in any way. Or whether it could hurt someone I love.

I have never written anything here that I regret (with the exception of that embarrassingly naive first post). Professionally, when I speak to residents or medical students or other physicians about social media and having an online presence, I teach them to never write or share anything that would make their mothers embarrassed. I have practiced what I teach.

But despite my past comfort with being honest in my sharing here, I scared myself away from writing in my blog over these past couple of years with my fear of letting you in. Sure, I’ve written a handful of things, but I’ve not really let you in since my father died. It was not you that scared me off, though. Your comments and emails have been wonderful and supportive and caring. It was me. It was my own fear of being honest and admitting…what? Not weakness, no. Maybe just fear of admitting that life was harder than I could handle.

Many of you must know of Glennon Doyle Melton, or if you don’t know her name, you probably know her blog, Momastery. After reading a handful of her posts over the past year or two, I began following her page on Facebook. Almost two weeks ago, she shared a link to a video she’d made for a TEDx conference in Traverse City. The video was called Lessons from the Mental Hospital, and I’ve now watched it twice. In it, Glennon speaks about overcoming her addictions. Mostly, though, she talks about learning to feel her feelings rather than numbing them and learning to tell the truth.

Something clicked for me as I watched Glennon pace the stage in her cute, boot-cut jeans and talk honestly into the camera about being truthful. I thought about my blog and how I felt paralyzed when I thought of writing a new post. I understood then that I afraid of being honest, and that in the absence of being able to share with complete honesty, I had lost my desire to write.

I’d like to find a way to be honest here and to share my life again – all of it, the good and the bad. I know that I will be limited, to a degree, because some stories are not mine to tell. But my story is mine to tell, and I would like to tell the truth of it because I think that I am not alone (even though it desperately feels that way most days). I think that someone else – maybe one of you, even – may need to understand that he or she is not alone, either.

I know that there are some people in my family who may read what I write and may become angry. They may even shut me out entirely. I have come to know, though, that there are worse fates, and that I am already shut out. Others may be appalled and offended that I would share so openly about things we just don’t talk about except maybe in private Facebook messages or on occasional phone calls, and certainly not in public with strangers.

I can’t care about offending, though. I must be true to myself, and that means being honest and talking out loud about things that are difficult and writing them down. I’ve been down this darkened path of keeping things in, and it’s not working for me. I don’t feel whole.

My truth is this: I am the sister of a schizophrenic who will not take medications consistently. Increasingly over these past several years, I have accepted that my brother is also an addict, turning to drugs to self-medicate. I am the daughter of a mother who fell so deep into depression when my father became ill that alcohol must have seemed her only way to escape. When my father died, I think alcohol must have seemed even more comforting than ever before. Or maybe it seemed the only choice. (I can only speculate. After all, her story is not mine to tell.) I am the mother of a curious and wonderful son who never fails to keep me on my toes. I am the mother of a beautiful seventh grader who has grown up too fast and is determined to wear makeup and embrace social media before I am ready. I am the mother of these two amazing children, and I must keep them at a distance from their uncle because I am afraid of him and the violence that he has proven he is capable of.

I will not tell their stories, but I would like to be brave enough to tell my own. I will try to be brave enough. I think that if I can be honest here again, painfully honest even when it makes me uncomfortable- makes us all uncomfortable – I can write again. I can be here again.


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47 Responses to “the most interesting man in the room”

  1. Oh, MJ. What a beautiful, beautiful tribute to your father and to his life. I lost my mother in 2002, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her terribly. It sounds as if you have many wonderful memories and stories about your father, and thinking of those will certainly help ease the pain. *hug*

  2. Patty Hetrick — February 28, 2014 @ 12:18 pm

    Such a wonderful story of your father’s life, Merry-Jennifer. Sending prayers to you all. May your pain be replaced with the joy of all the memories you shared together.

  3. Alysa — February 28, 2014 @ 12:20 pm

    What a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing his memory with us.

  4. Macaroni Mama — February 28, 2014 @ 12:43 pm

    Beautiful, Merry Jennifer. He always WAS the most interesting man in the room.

  5. Christine (Cook the Story) — February 28, 2014 @ 12:47 pm

    He sounds like an amazing man, M. J. Thanks for sharing his story. Hugs, sweet friend. I’m thinking of you.

  6. Liz Larkin — February 28, 2014 @ 1:02 pm

    Thank you for sharing your dad with us, MJ. A bittersweet, beautiful post. It reminds me of the movie Big Fish, about the life of an extraordinary man. So very sorry for your loss. XO

  7. Gail — February 28, 2014 @ 1:08 pm

    Thank you, MJ, for sharing your dad with us. As long as you write about him, and share stories about him, a part of him is never ever dead and gone.

    Sending you the biggest hugs ever.


  8. Di — February 28, 2014 @ 1:09 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss. I believed you might have had his story in you all along. I am sure you will continue to give it a voice. I wish you well on this new chapter of healing in your life. With time and distance it gets easier, and better.

  9. Kathy - Panini Happy — February 28, 2014 @ 1:09 pm

    I stopped what I was doing when I saw your link to this post, because I knew it would be more important for me to read than anything else I was in the middle of. Thank you for sharing your father’s story, and I’m so thankful that you have this platform (and associated community!), especially during this time. What an amazing man, and what an amazing daughter. Much love to you!

  10. Lisa @ Garnish with Lemon — February 28, 2014 @ 1:33 pm

    Merry Jennifer-I am so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful memoir you have written about him. Sending you wishes of peace during this difficult time.

  11. Vidhya — February 28, 2014 @ 1:36 pm

    My heartfelt sympathy…

  12. Carrie Oliver — February 28, 2014 @ 1:36 pm

    MJ, My guess is that you will always miss him and all that made him unique. But I think you’ll always feel him with you, too, and that Di is right, that you’ll find yourself continuing to tell his story as it evolves with time.

  13. Judy Turner — February 28, 2014 @ 1:39 pm

    Merry Jennifer — Thank you for sharing your memories of your father. I knew him to be so articulate, funny, and an immensely talented artist. Fort White has lost a wonderful friend. Keep him close in your heart.

  14. Jayne — February 28, 2014 @ 2:00 pm

    What a lovely post about your father, thank you for sharing. One day those memories will make you smile. For now it’s hard and I’m so sorry for your loss. Hugs xx

  15. Denice Olig — February 28, 2014 @ 2:30 pm

    Beautiful sentiments.
    Heaven will be glad to see him coming.
    Healing thoughts to you and your family.

  16. Nancie McDermott — February 28, 2014 @ 3:02 pm

    Oh, what a wonderful, amazing, handsome, intelligent, fascinating, unique, determined, creative, generous and passionate man. Hail to the Mayor, the entrepreneur, the sweetheart, the Daddy, the storyteller, all that was and all that he did. I have loved reading about how he went out, though it made me sad. I loved reading how he came in and how he used his time here. I love seeing him smile, young and old. Grateful to have known him here, especially now, caught up on the Chapters I missed. Take good care.

  17. Rosemary — February 28, 2014 @ 3:12 pm

    Beautiful memories of an amazing man, I am so sorry for your loss and I am keeping your family in my prayers.

  18. No words MJ. A beautiful tribute to your dad. He was a lucky guy having a daughter like you. All the hugs and love in the world. XO

  19. Renée J. (RJ Flamingo) — February 28, 2014 @ 3:16 pm

    What an incredible man your father was, MJ. The lesson of his life and legacy seem to be “Do what you love, and love what you do.” In that, you make him and his memory, proud. He will always be with you. Hugs and healing vibes are sent to you and your family. xox

  20. Kate McDermott — February 28, 2014 @ 3:38 pm

    Such heartfelt and beautiful words to remember him by. Thank you for sharing him with all of us today. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  21. Nineteen — February 28, 2014 @ 5:06 pm

    So, sorry for your loss. I lost my dad last year after suffering from dementia as well. It was hard to see him slowly drift away. Your words comfort me a year after. What a lovely piece. May peace be with you and your family.

  22. Geek Knitter — February 28, 2014 @ 5:54 pm

    Such a moving tribute you’ve shared with us. Thank you for telling your father’s story. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  23. Nancy Collins — February 28, 2014 @ 6:06 pm

    My regret is that I never had a chance to meet him but we did get to know each other through emails. His death saddens me terribly and I must extend my deepest sympathy to you and your family, especially, your mother Merry.

    May he now rest in peace, leaving his last days of agony behind. You have left a special tribute to him with your words. God be with you and yours.

  24. annelies — February 28, 2014 @ 6:16 pm

    What a character. I love that he never stopped being mayor and that he pursued his passion for stained glass and made it his industry. He gave back to the people around him and dedicated himself to his community. From the stories you shared, he lived his life well. I’m so sorry for your loss. As someone who lost her dad four years ago (who was quite the character too), I know that particular pain and grief. I send you a big hug. Hang in there MJ.

  25. Brooke — February 28, 2014 @ 7:22 pm

    Thank you so much for this beautiful profile of your father. Thank you for your beautiful story telling and giving us the opportunity to get to know your delightful father, the life that he lead, and the wonderful things he did. Your memory and tribute of him makes him live on a little in all of us. Thank you.
    Hugs and kisses to you. Thank you for continuing his legacy of making the world a more beautiful place.

  26. Alice Martin — February 28, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

    A sign outside the Bar B Que restaurant in Fort White said, “Rest in Peace….Mayor George”. So many people will miss him.

  27. Jill Lucas — February 28, 2014 @ 10:42 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I have greatly admired your eloquence in writing about your dad. I hope you’ll find comfort in a lifetime of happy memories.

  28. Carol Sacks — February 28, 2014 @ 10:46 pm

    Such a moving tribute. He was fortunate to have a daughter who so clearly cherished and revered him.

  29. Liren — February 28, 2014 @ 11:07 pm

    MJ, indeed, he was a most interesting man, I would have loved to have had a chance to chat with him and hear his stories. But more so, he was an amazing father, I can sense the love and respect you have for him, not just with this beautiful post, but in everything you write and in everything you have shared about him. I send you my sincerest hugs.

  30. Kevin — March 1, 2014 @ 3:47 am


  31. Paula — March 1, 2014 @ 7:36 am

    Of everything you have written on this site, this one is the most poignant, beautiful and important. Your father’s presence will remain in many hearts and in many rooms, spoken of often and fondly remembered by all those who knew him. My heart goes out to you and to all of them. Your Dad is in a place of peace and bursting with pride right now.

  32. Flavia — March 1, 2014 @ 8:30 am

    This is a beautifully written tribute, MJ. I am keeping you, your mother and your family in my prayers. May you all find comfort in the wonderful memories of your father. Much love to you, Flavia xo

  33. Eileen — March 1, 2014 @ 10:52 am

    I’m never very good with words at a time like this, but please know that my thoughts are with you and your family and I think this tribute to your father’s life is beautiful.

  34. jacquie — March 1, 2014 @ 11:18 am

    what a beautiful post about a wonderful man by his loving daughter. Thank you for sharing him and yourself with us. My sympathies are with you and your loved ones.

  35. Robin Schatz — March 1, 2014 @ 11:27 am

    My father, too, was always the most interesting man in the room, although he wasn’t gregarious like your dad (except around family and close friends). And like your parents, my parents shared an amazing love story; my father adored my mother until the day he died. I lost my dad nearly 4 years ago, and my mother a year ago today. I miss them both tremendously. My deepest sympathies for your loss.

  36. Katy — March 1, 2014 @ 12:28 pm

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to your father!
    God’s blessings and love to you and yours.

  37. BC Pitcher — March 1, 2014 @ 5:44 pm

    You have so lovingly and bravely shared this long, sad walk with your father. It has been an honor to follow this journey, and with many of your loyal readers, you are in our prayers and we join you in celebrating your bigger than life father and his huge capacity for love.
    I look forward to following your journey to brighter days as your grief eases into a “scrapbook” of all the wonderful memories you shared a glimpses of in this morning’s post.

  38. Sharon — March 1, 2014 @ 8:09 pm

    I loved this tribute plus in the picture of him as an older man you can really see the essence of him..as a younger man with him his love shined through.

  39. Laura — March 2, 2014 @ 11:03 pm

    What a lovely, touching tribute. *hugs*

  40. Kathryn — March 3, 2014 @ 4:36 am

    This was a wonderful tribute to a remarkable man. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  41. thyme (Sarah) — March 3, 2014 @ 10:33 pm

    It’s funny your story intersects with mine right now. My in-laws just left our home after a week’s stay. They are the only parents I have known. We noticed my father-inlaws rapidly declining health. We are saddened by it and very needy for more time together. Your words are beautiful in the way you describe your father. It is so wonderful that you are capturing his spirit through your writing. I am so very sorry for your loss.

  42. vagabonde — March 7, 2014 @ 10:02 pm

    What a wonderful man with so many talents – your father certainly was the most interesting man in the room. Your post describing him is so warm and loving. I am sorry for your loss and grief.

  43. lucy — March 10, 2014 @ 1:46 pm

    Merry Jennifer, I am so sorry for your loss. What speaks to my heart through your writing is how very lucky you have been to have been the daughter of and loved by a great man. My heartfelt sympathy to you and your family.

  44. An absolutely beautiful tribute! I am truly sorry for your loss.

  45. Scott W — March 11, 2014 @ 11:38 am

    This was a wonderful article, it brought tears to my eyes.

  46. Ryan S — April 23, 2014 @ 9:40 pm

    Your dad was indeed a warm, funny, unforgettable man.

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